When you we want to call a beloved historical figure praised by Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr and Barack Obama – the holy trinity of secular saints –  a “racist”, it certainly helps to have some intellectual heft on your side. It’s a good thing then that the a campaign to remove a statue of Mahatma Gandhi from the campus of the University of Ghana for his “racist identity” is being led by dons from the school. 

The University of Ghana lecturers have started a petition on Change.Org  under the hashtag #GandhiMustComeDown to get the Gandhi statue removed.

The statue of the oft-quoted Indian independence hero was put up in June during India President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Ghana.

To paraphrase a common expression, hell hath no fury than academics with a historical record to correct. In the petition, the lecturers say it is unacceptable and illogical for Gandhi to be rewarded with a statue given the many racist statements attributed to him in his lifetime.

“Some harm has already been done by erecting the statue. We have failed the generation that look up to us, namely our students.  How will the historian teach and explain that Gandhi was uncharitable in his attitude towards the Black race and see that we’re glorifying him by erecting a statue on our campus?” ask the university dons. 

“However, to allow the statue to remain on our campus will do even more harm and make us appear to hold double-standards,’ they add. 

The University of Ghana lecturers have started a petition on Change.Org  under the hashtag #GandhiMustComeDown to get the Gandhi statue removed

“Kaffir”

As This Is Africa has reported on before, Gandhi had some profoundly racist things to say about Africans in the course of a life now mostly celebrated for his embrace of non-violent means to fight the oppressor. The petition lists some of Gandhi’s most egregious comments, many written during his stint in South Africa where he thought Indians deserved better treatment from the whites than the “Kaffir”, a deeply offensive slur then used to describe black Africans. 

“A general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir”

“Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness”

Just in case you still have some doubts in your mind about how Gandhi felt in his heart of hearts about Africans. Here are some shorter examples of his disgustingly racist world view.

“So far as the feeling has been expressed, it is to degrade the Indian to the position of the Kaffir.”

“The Boer Government insulted the Indians by classing them with the Kaffirs.”

The thrust of it is Mr An-eye-for-an-eye-makes-the-whole-world-blind was only making a ladder for Indians to achieve equal treatment to whites. He was perfectly ready to kick the ladder away if the “kaffir” tried to use it. 

Our own heroes 

In their petition the Ghanaian dons also argue that the Gandhi statue is occupying valuable real estate that could be of better used if it was replaced with the statue of an African hero. 

“We are of the view that if there should be statues on our campus, then, first and foremost, they should be of African heroes and heroines, who can serve as examples of who we are and what we have achieved as a people,” they write. “

“In a context where our youth know so little about our own history, such statues can serve as an opportunity for such learning to occur. Why should we uplift other people’s ‘heroes’ at an African university when we haven’t lifted up our own? We consider this to be a slap in the face that undermines our struggles for autonomy, recognition and respect,’ they add.